Professor Richard Wayne FRSC

Professor Richard Peer Wayne FRSC 1938 – 2023

Prof Richard Wayne

We in the Department of Chemistry were saddened to hear of the death in December 2023 of Richard Wayne, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry in the PTCL. Prof Gus Hancock, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, writes:

Richard completed a BA in Cambridge University, where he won an Open Scholarship to Trinity College in 1957, and worked with Brian Thrush and Nobel Laureate Ronald Norrish in the Physical Chemistry Department for his PhD (awarded in 1963). He spent two years as a postdoc in Liverpool University before spending the rest of his academic career in Oxford Chemistry, first as a demonstrator, together with an Official Studentship at Christ Church, and then as a University lecturer in 1967, with elevation to a Professorship in 1996.

Richard was a superb gas phase reaction kineticist and photochemist. His major contributions to the field were in laboratory studies of atmospheric chemistry processes, particularly in the careful evaluation of the rates and reaction pathways involving the behaviour of ozone, the OH and HO2 radicals, and the oxides of nitrogen and of chlorine. All of these are minor atmospheric constituents by mole fraction, but of paramount importance in determining the reaction schemes that control the response of our atmosphere to change, particularly that caused by anthropogenic activity.

His experiments were always characterised by elegance of technique, with a tendency to shun fancy equipment when simpler methods could do the job just as efficiently. He pioneered the difficult measurements of the rates of radical-radical reactions with elegant determinations of the absolute concentrations of the labile (and often explosive) species. Many of these were unstable if in contact with metal surfaces, and Richard’s skill to obviate this by producing complex pieces of equipment made of glass (skills passed on to generations of graduate students) were legendary.

He produced over 250 research articles and eight books, with some of the latter becoming essential texts in the Oxford Chemistry course and beyond, particularly his books on Photochemistry and Atmospheric Chemistry (one edition of which was co-authored with his daughter Carol). He was editor in chief of the Journal of Photochemistry for 32 years from 1972. In 1999 he received the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Reaction Kinetics award and, in 2001, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Ciudad Real. He served with distinction on a variety of University committees, notably as Chairman of the Chemistry Sub-faculty and then of the Faculty Board of Physical Sciences.

His undergraduate lectures on Photochemistry, Reaction Kinetics and Atmospheric Chemistry were always entertaining, with memorable lecture demonstrations – many will remember his illustrations of the fluorescent properties of dyestuffs and the visible chemiluminescence accompanying gas phase atomic reactions. He ensured that members of his group always had the chance of attending international conferences, and they will never forget the many occasions on which he accompanied them. His legendary hospitality at parties in Christ Church or at his house in St Giles gave ample opportunities for many to marvel at his sheer joy of life: raconteur, bon viveur and irrepressible fun-maker, as well as a highly accomplished academic and loyal friend. We shall miss him.

Christ Church obituary for Professor Richard Wayne FRSC